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Now is the time to get your flu shot, state says

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(Photo: Town of Flower Mound)

The Texas Department of State Health Services  is encouraging everyone 6 months old and older to get vaccinated now to protect themselves from getting the flu.

The flu vaccine causes your body to make antibodies to fight influenza, but it takes about two weeks for this to happen, so it’s important to get the flu vaccine early, before influenza hits your community, said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, DSHS Infectious Disease Medical Officer.

It is especially important for people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, older adults, and the people who live with them to get vaccinated in order to minimize the risk of developing serious complications from the flu, according to a DSHS news release. Family members and others around babies should get vaccinated to protect the babies and themselves since infants under 6 months of age cannot get vaccinated.

Dr. Rebecca Butler of Lantana Pediatrics said many of the same discussions are had with parents each year around this time. Parents are usually surprised to learn that not only should children 6 months and older be immunized, but children younger than 8 getting the vaccine for the first time need two doses at least four weeks apart.

“The first dose merely primes the immune system, and two weeks after, the second dose protects from the seasonal flu at its highest,” Butler said.

Butler also said all pregnant women and those considering pregnancy should get the vaccine to protect them against infection and so that they will pass on antibodies to their fetuses for up to the first six months of life.

There is no longer a special precaution advised for this with an egg allergy, Butler said. It’s safe for them to receive the flu vaccine with the standard precautions given.

Influenza is an illness caused by one of a number of related viruses. Symptoms usually start suddenly and include fever, body aches, chills, a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches and extreme fatigue and can last a week or longer, according to the DSHS news release. It is important to note that not all flu sufferers will have a fever.

People can help stop the spread of illness and reduce their chance of catching the flu by getting vaccinated, washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if they’re sick.

All flu vaccines this season are made to protect against viruses similar to the strains A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1), A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2) and B/Brisbane/60/2008 (B/Victoria lineage), according to the DSHS. Some vaccines include an additional vaccine virus strain, B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage).

The CDC advises against the use of the live attenuated influenza vaccine, commonly called the nasal spray vaccine and sold under the trade name FluMist. Research from prior flu seasons measured no protective benefit, according to the DSHS.

People can contact their health care provider, local health department, local pharmacy or use the Vaccine Finder to find out where flu shots are available.

If people are experiencing flu symptoms, health officials encourage them to seek treatment promptly, according to the DSHS. Antiviral drugs may help shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

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